Screenwriter and author Robert McKee once described the telling of stories as, “the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience” and therefore, “the currency of human contact”.
For the past two years, Community Journalist Laura Konyndyk has been sharing such stories for the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, highlighting the good things happening in our OACS member schools: A fun project that a teacher is doing with his or her class, a reflective piece on enrollment increases, a celebration of reaching a historic milestone at a school – the list goes on. By doing so, she has been creating a continuous bridge that has kept our member schools connected with the larger OACS community.
At the end of this year, Laura will be leaving the OACS to embark on a new vocational journey. She plans to explore other employment opportunities that will allow her to continue to grow as a writer and an artist. In the meantime, she will remain busy working at a local bookstore, while continuing to develop her illustration business.
“I’m looking forward to what’s next. This is a new chapter for me, and I’m excited to see what God has in store.”
Entering into a new chapter in life commonly offers a unique opportunity to reflect upon our journey up until this point. Laura first began working for the OACS as receptionist in 2011, while Samantha Bevaart was taking a maternity leave. She then moved into the role of Communications Assistant, where her work consisted primarily of building up the edCommons website – uploading, formatting and digitizing learning resources, editing various publications, and even providing illustrations for learning resources.
In September of 2013, the title of “Community Journalist” was added to Laura’s role. Up until that point, the OACS News Service had operated via an external organization called Axiom News. Laura’s qualifications as an English major and her love for working with words made her a perfect candidate for becoming the first in-house writer on staff, writing the stories of our member schools.
Just as Laura’s role at the OACS had changed and grown to reflect her specific gifts in the areas of story structure and writing, the focus of the stories she shared has also developed over the two years she spent writing them. Initially, they were meant to highlight the events that were happening in schools on the OACS organizational website. However, Laura has seen her stories re-imagined and shared in several new ways. The Communicator email newsletter was resurrected during her time so that OACS supporters could stay connected. In fact, the whole oacs.org website was re-designed so that news stories, news briefs, and staff blogs could be showcased in a more effective way. News stories are now visible in the online OACS school directory—connecting a school listing to a story that Laura has written about it in the last few years.
Laura has enjoyed being a part of these changes. She notes, “I think it gives the stories a broader reach”. To expand this area even further, Laura also created an OACS Facebook page, which she adds, “is another good online space to share stories.” More recently, Laura has also been submitting her stories to local newspapers, aiming to get the articles out to a broader audience—another way to affirm to the communities around us the good work happening in our member schools.
When asked what she has enjoyed most about the process of writing stories for the OACS, Laura shares: “I’ve really enjoyed writing stories about teachers and students who are taking risks and trying out new things in learning. I liked that the unique projects, triumphs and challenges in education could be celebrated through the articles that I’ve crafted. Also, I’ve loved seeing schools share my OACS stories on their own social media outlets—it’s another way for them to honor the good work happening in their educational community, and I’ve genuinely enjoyed playing a role in that!”
One of Laura’s favorite stories to write was a piece about students at Burlington Christian Academy who created a short film for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Jump Cuts Competition. The students had to learn a variety of new video techniques, including voice-over narration and various forms of stop-motion animation involving LEGO, pencil drawings, and block letters.
“I was very impressed by the creativity of the parent volunteers, students, and teachers involved. It was a fun piece to write because of that!”
More recently, Laura also enjoyed writing a story about students at Timothy Christian School who discovered remnants of a “lost village” while visiting the St. Lawrence River. Their trip was a part of a multi-grade hands-on project about the St. Lawrence Seaway project.
“I loved seeing how the study of history can lead to community engagement and to students sharing their work with an authentic audience!”
[caption id=”attachment_11708” align=”alignright” width=”241”] OACS Community Journalist Laura Konyndyk[/caption]
While she is looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for her, Laura will certainly miss the rewards and challenges that come with sharing stories for the OACS.
“Serving as Community Journalist has been a worthwhile and fun experience for me. I’ve learned a lot and am thankful for the opportunities that opened up for me while in this position. I certainly hope that I’ll continue honing the skills I developed in this role as I move on to the next chapter of my vocational journey! “
As her journey continues in a new direction in January, Laura reflects on a challenge extended by Andy Crouch—someone who has influenced her a great deal during her years at the OACS.
“I’m thinking again of the invitation [Crouch] extends to Christians—to ‘make the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful’.
“I hope that there will be many examples in the years to come of Christian schools seeking to do just that—to make our world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful—and I hope that the OACS News Service will be there to celebrate those efforts!”